Kathy English, The Toronto Star’s public editor, examines how media reported on two ethically-difficult cases: the kidnapping of CBC reporter Mellissa Fung in Afghanistan, and the jailing in North Korea of Alberta dental technician Je Yell Kim.


Kathy English, The Toronto Star’s public editor, examines how media
reported on two ethically-difficult cases: the kidnapping of CBC
reporter Mellissa Fung in Afghanistan, and the jailing in North Korea
of Alberta dental technician Je Yell Kim.

“When a Canadian
citizen is kidnapped overseas in a dangerous war zone, most journalists
would readily agree that’s important news in the public interest,”
writes English. “When a CBC reporter was kidnapped in Afghanistan last
month and other Canadian news organizations agreed to the national
broadcaster’s request to suppress that news to better ensure the
reporter’s safety, was that a double standard? Would a Canadian victim
who was not a journalist get the same consideration?”

Je Yell
Kim, in fact, did not get the same consideration — his jailing was
reported by the TorStar, a fact that still makes English uneasy.

English
notes that the TorStar has no clear policy to guide reporters and
editors on such ethical decisions. She says it needs a policy
immediately, “with Canada now at war in Afghanistan, and kidnappings on
the rise there and in other global terror zones.”

English agrees with The Canadian Press
policy on kidnapping and terrorism: ‘No news story is worth someone’s
life.’ Says English, “That’s a value all thinking journalists can
subscribe to.”

Is that enough? Nope, responds Chris Selley in a Maclean’s blog:”…
any explanation of the media blackout that doesn’t include a proviso
along the lines of, “look, we make decisions in each individual case in
the heat of the moment, not according to some kind of scientific
formula, so contradictions are bound to appear,” is doomed to fail.”

You can read more about the Fung case on J-Source here.

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